The U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed a bill on Wednesday that seeks accountability for China’s harsh crackdown on Muslim Uyghurs that has imposed blanket surveillance and landed some 1.5 million residents of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) in internment camps.
The Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act, which requires endorsement by the full U.S. Senate and ratification by the House of Representatives, would appoint a special State Department coordinator on Xinjiang and require regular reports on the camps, the surveillance network and the security threats posed by the crackdown.
Up to 1.5 million Uyghurs and other Muslim ethnic minorities accused of harboring “strong religious views” and “politically incorrect” ideas have been held since April 2017. Reporting by RFA’s Uyghur Service and other media outlets has shown that those in the camps routinely face rough treatment at the hands of their overseers, and endure poor diets and unhygienic conditions.
“It is long overdue to hold Chinese government and Communist Party officials accountable for systemic and egregious human rights abuses against Uyghurs and other predominantly Muslim minorities in Xinjiang,” said Republican Senator Marco Rubio, who co-sponsored the legislation, with Democrat Bob Menendez.
“Today we are all Uyghurs, and China’s horrific and systematic abuse of its Uyghur minority is an affront to all people who value the principles of universal human rights, and Beijing’s imposition of systemic mass surveillance in Xinjiang should send a chill down the spine of every person who values humanity, human life, and ethnic, religious and cultural freedom,” Menendez said.
Menendez called the bipartisan legislation “an important stand today against President Xi (Jinping) and the Chinese Communist Party’s vision of a dystopian authoritarian future for their own people and for the planet.”
The bill provides a catalog of documented mistreatment of Uyghurs and other Turkic-speaking Muslims that precedes the detention camps.
“In recent decades, central and regional Chinese government policies have systematically discriminated against Uyghurs, ethnic Kazakhs, and other Muslims in Xinjiang by denying them a range of civil and political rights, including the freedoms of expression, religion, movement, and a fair trial, among others,” says the legislation.